More than ADHD

His 1st art exhibit at a local community center!  (one of his many talents)
His 1st art exhibit at a local community center! (one of his many talents)

A pitiful sounding knock on the front door told me that my son was coming inside a little earlier than expected.  When questioned about the time he had outside, he told the story of being “told” to go home because he didn’t want to play the game the other kids wanted to play.  My heart sunk a little.  I know that he was probably leaving out a few details, and perhaps he was being a little aggressive, selfish, or anything else that a boy can be, but I didn’t really care.  My heart hurts when his heart is hurting.

A few minutes later he got mad at his sister for a trivial thing, erupted into tears, ran to his room, and shut the door.  We gave him his space, but eventually my husband went into his room to console him.  I’m not sure if we ever will know the full story of what happened with the other boys on the street, but obviously my son felt like an outcast.

My maternal, bear-like instincts kicked in immediately.  Truth be told, I wanted to march right across the street, ask what happened, and why my son was the only one not playing outside with them.  I didn’t though.  I stayed in and stewed a minute within myself trying to come up with the right words for him.  I eventually said, “It’s okay if you don’t want to play tag or anything else they want to play.  You don’t have to go along with what they want to do all of the time, and the next time they come over and ask if you if you want to play, it’s okay for you to say no, if that’s what you want to do.”

I don’t know if that was the right response.  It’s hard to teach a child to stick up for himself/herself in this age of “bully-hood”.  I want my children to stand up for themselves, but at the same time, I don’t want their stance to backfire and for them to be labeled.  This is not the first time he has been let down by the kids on the street.  I witnessed a few of them making fun of him and not “allowing” him to play with them.  On that day, I spoke up and said to these boys, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, please don’t say anything at all.”

I have not really ever written about the challenges we have raising a son with ADHD.  A part of me feels as though I’m betraying him a bit by even mentioning it.  Yet, there is another part of me who needs to reach out about parenting a child with it.  Prior to seeing “it” in action, I got caught up in the thinking that “every child is hyper/he’s just a boy”.  I’ve learned through first-hand experience that raising a child with ADHD is difficult.  It causes social problems, potential behavioral problems, and can affect self-esteem.

I know he can be impulsive at times, might not listen with intensity, makes friends and loses them quickly, and always seems to be one step ahead of his peers.  I also know that he gets bored with repeated play and does tend to play by himself a lot.  I’ve heard comments suggesting that he just needs to be disciplined, or he needs to act like other boys, etc.  When things like this are said, it stings a bit.  I’m not excusing any of his social or behavioral challenges because of ADHD, I’m just keenly aware that there are certain symptoms that go along with the diagnosis.  Even I find myself struggling at times with patience in having to redirect him numerous times about the same thing over and over again.

With all of that being said, I also know that he is an incredible child with an inquisitive mind, a tender heart, an artistic streak, and a will as strong as steel.  He’s a unique little guy who loves life and loves his family.  His mind is constantly creating new ways of doing things.  He can make a project out of scraps and comes up with ideas of how to use various items around the house for future pieces of artwork.  In other words, he’s a Super-Boy!

If only others would see him through my eyes, maybe he would be understood a little bit more.  I know all of the reasons why he entered protective services at the age of two-days-old.  I know his history and the history of his biological family.  I know his struggles, his insecurities, and his talents.  I know his desire to have solid friendships as well.  He will never fit into a box that others may want him to, including the box I might desire for him at times.  He is more than ADHD – so much more.

I also wonder if we could all take a look around us and see each other the way our Heavenly Father sees us.  He sees us through eyes of grace.  He knows our past, our insecurities, our struggles, our talents, and our desires.  He also knows that our past does not dictate our future, and our failures do not outweigh our successes.

Who knew the rejection of playtime outside in the middle of America would cause me to think about all of this?!?  It seems that life can throw so many parenting lessons at us, and the Lord’s wisdom abounds in these teachable moments.  It also reminds me that we need to continually build our children up.  We need to be bold enough to tell them just how incredible they are not just because they are children, but because they are diverse and talented with their own set of gifts to offer to the world.

Raising a child with ADHD presents challenges on a day-to-day basis.  It doesn’t just go away over time, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how it will unfold in my son’s life as he grows into adolescence.  One thing I do know is that my love of him pales in comparison to God’s love for him, and that is something I can always be sure of.

Are you parenting a child with ADHD?  If so, what are some strategies you use to increase social skills and reduce any other types of behaviors that come along?

Kids

Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music. ~William Stafford

Sunny Days and Ice Cream Cones

Working in child welfare for any amount of time forces the rude awakening of the troubles we have in our society and the daily struggles that too many children have in the United States.  There are children who are fatherless, motherless, or both.  Many are taking care of their baby siblings even though they are babies themselves.  Some can tell you how to prepare a crack pipe because they have witnessed it in their home.  Others do not understand boundaries or safety because they have never been kept safe.  Infants are born with the addictions of their mothers; or at least, the exposure of poor choices made while in the womb.  If you do not believe or understand this, then I encourage you to spend a day with a child abuse and neglect investigator.

It is deeply troubling when I hear people dismiss children as if they carry no purpose.  I have written about this before in my post Where is Your Treasure?

ALL children are vital to this world.  ALL children are precious in the eyes of the Lord.  He loves each one as if he or she is His only child.

They teach us to forgive quickly, to slow down, to laugh, and to dream.  They see things through the lens of innocence.  They have great purpose in this world.  Not to sound cliché, but they are the future and the potential fulfillment of all things good in this world.

When I took this picture of my daughter above at a family get together, I could not help but think about what the life of a child should be made of.  Their lives should be filled with love, silliness, warmth, and parents.  Their lives should be enveloped in family, memories, shelter, encouragement, and safety.  They deserve days filled with the warmth of sunshine, the laughter of playmates, and the sweetness of ice cream cones.

Six Years of Happy

Happy Birthday Bubby.  I love you so much more than I will ever find the words to express.  I am incredibly grateful to the Lord for choosing us as your parents.  I know I have said that over and over, but I suspect I will not stop saying it until my life on Earth has ended.  Just thinking about the person you are growing into, all of your strengths and sweet quirks, makes my heart leap with joy.

The night before you came to us, I prayed that the Lord would provide us with the opportunity to parent a baby.  We woke up that morning not knowing that by the end of the day, our lives would be forever changed.  He answered my prayer immediately.  We quickly rushed out the door to head to the hospital after getting a call from the local child protective services saying “can you be there in 30 minutes?”  Your first year was full of hope, tears, joy, fears, and the overall feeling of being a part of something bigger than ourselves.  We were caught between loving you desperately and the commitment we made to help your birth mother get you back.  We were sworn to protecting you; yet, we had to rely on others in your life to make the decisions on what was best.  We were broken down and humbled by the plight of your birth mother while glowing in the enchantment of who you were and by the Lord’s gifting of you.

I was so happy to have him for his first Christmas.

Your second year held the mixed up feelings of grieving for your birth mother and her loss of you while experiencing pure joy at your adoption.  Before your adoption, we did not know how long we would hold you.  We said “love you forever” as often as we could.  On that fateful day in May, we were given the blessing of you being ours forever.  So much was revealed to us during this time of life.  Your curly hair, sweet smile, and boundless energy kept us amused.  People were drawn to you.  Your charm and talkative nature took flight.

The outfit he was adopted in. We “tried it on” just a few days before his adoption to make sure it fit. Of course, he looked perfect in it!
sweet curls for a sweet boy

Year three…well…let’s just say that year three was a wee bit challenging.  Your God-given strong-willed determination was your shining accomplishment!  You  started to see more of the world with curiosity and fierce independence.  Music also became something you were quite fond of.  You welcomed a baby sister!  You announced it.  You told us that you would be getting a baby sister before we even knew.  I can only imagine how your little mind must have been spinning when your baby sister arrived on our doorstep.  You took it in stride.  You noticed your friends’ mommies had babies in their bellies; and yet, you never questioned why your sister was delivered to our door by a nice lady with brown hair.  You just seemed to understand that your mommy does not grow babies in her belly.

Age 3 with sissy
He was so excited to have a baby sister!

Year four was the year of music, Legos, and all things super-hero.  You often dressed up, grabbed whatever sword you could find, hop on your big wheel, and ride through the house in an attempt to beat the bad guys.  Sometimes you even sang songs about being a super-hero.  One of the sweetest things you said to me was “Mommy, you are my super-hero.”  When at home, you seemed to always have a drum stick and your dulcimer in hand.  Your songs were also about rock stars, Jesus, Christmas, God, and of course, mommy.  You performed just about every night for us.  You would jump out of the closet, proclaim yourself as a rock star, spin around, then sing and strum away.  My favorite song went like this:

I’m a little rock star…for Jesus…for Christmas…for God…and my family.

Here he comes! (I promise he has some form of clothing on)

Year five seemed to slip away so fast.  You took your first airplane ride, went to a strange new place called Disney World, rode rides that overwhelmed your senses, and shook with excitement when meeting Buzz Light Year!  Painting became a hobby for you and we discovered your natural ability as a gymnast.  You graduated from preschool, got glasses, spent extra time with your Papa fishing on the lake, and started Kindergarten.  You started referring to yourself as a “school-ager”.

He was so excited to meet Buzz!

Sometimes, I just sit back and watch the videos of you throughout the years.  My eyes well up with tears at just how special you are and also at how swiftly time has gone by.  I wish I could back and push a button to slow down time.  I wish I would have kissed you just a bit more before night-night, or let you sing me one more silly song, or picked you up one more time when you said “holdu holdu“.  You are starting to show your growth in the way you get just ever-so-slightly embarrassed if I try to kiss you around other kids.  But, at the same time, you still reach for my hand and put your head on my lap when it is just the two of us.

God has blessed us so much by choosing us as your parents.  You continue to amaze us, challenge us, stretch us, refine us, and love on us daily.  You, my son, are a precious wonder.  Happy, happy, happy birthday my sweet one…love you forever…

Thank You, Lord, For Giving Us Six Years of Happy

Moments Like This

I watched my first baby walk through the doors of Kindergarten today.  His backpack was nearly as big as him and even though he has grown so much over the years, he still seems too small to release into the big, new world of the school system.  I have written before in my post Motherhood Dreams about certain things that I worried missing out on if I never became a mother.  Well, sending a child to Kindergarten is one of those things.  It is one of my so-called Bucket List Items that I can now check off as having completed.

As someone who is barren, I truly never thought this day would come.  Now, as my mind is racing with a hint of sadness, nervousness, excitement, pride, and appreciation, I cannot help but think about the first time I saw him.  As his (former) foster mother, I did not know for sure if I would even have him long enough to celebrate his first birthday so thinking about sending him off to his first day of Kindergarten was just a dream.  Today, this dream came true.

I know sending a child to Kindergarten is not exactly the kind of action-packed, adrenaline-laced bucket list item that most people aspire to do.  I get that.  I too have wishes of high-flying adventures tucked away that I would like to experience in my lifetime.  But, at the end of my life, I want to be able to look back at moments like this and remember them.  I want to hear them, smell them, and feel them.  I want them to be the moments that leave my heart happy and that remind of the gift of life.

His birth mother came to my mind a lot today as well.  Another moment in time of great relevance has passed her by.  I am so glad that I was the one to kiss him goodbye and take one last glance over my shoulder as I walked out the door of his classroom.  Yet, at the same time, my heart felt a twinge of sadness that she was not able to.  In my post, I thought of you today birth mother, I wrote down my feelings about her on the day he graduated from preschool.  Today was no different.  I suspect every milestone in his life and in mine will remind me of who she is, what she is missing, and the grace that has covered the both of us.

Today was more than just sending my first baby off to Kindergarten.  It is one day that I am so thankful to have to cherish.  I get another chance in a few years with my daughter, but for right now, I am going to soak up this moment as much as I can.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made

It is hard being a kid these days.  Their actions are usually fairly age appropriate, and yet, they are told to work on their “behaviors” on a pretty consistent basis.  I really do not recall as a child being reminded to “make good choices” or being told “you need to work on that behavior”.  I was disciplined and taught the correct way to interact with others, but it was done from the perspective that children will be children.  My actions as a child were not taken so seriously and certainly were not thought to be truly indicative of the adult I would end up becoming.

My son is precious, but boy he is a pistol!  High energy, fearless, creative, smart, and strong-willed are a few of the words that define him.  Let’s just say he has had his fair share of “behavior management” in preschool.  I often wonder how his perception of himself has been shaped by the continual reminders in the preschool setting to make good choices, earn rewards, “stay in the green pocket”, or any other motivational system put into place to keep kids in line.  I’m NOT saying that I disagree with these things as I know they have their place in helping children.  I just feel we expect children to be little adults far too often.  My son told me one time that he gets stressed out about school…seriously.  He’s not even in Kindergarten yet and has already felt stressed by the expectations of the academic setting.

Back in 2010 when he was close to four years old, we were painting together at the table.  He had been having a difficult time socially, didn’t mesh with the teacher, and was actually asked to leave the preschool.  In an effort to comfort him, I said “You know mommy loves you very much.” He said, “I know”.  Then it hit me.  I told my kids all the time how much I loved them, but far too often I failed to tell them why I loved them and what makes them unique.

In that moment, I grabbed the paintbrush, piece of construction paper, and started to paint a flag for him.  When he asked me what it was, I said “It is your flag.”  He giggled as he was not really sure what to make of it.  After I was done, I explained the meaning of it to him.  The blue represented his favorite color.  The middle letter in the flag is the first letter of his first name.  Above his name is a pink stick figure which represented the fact that he is a good big brother to his little sister.  The cross in the corner was because he loves going to church and singing about Jesus.  The orange dog symbolized how much he cares for our pets.  The bike below the dog was there because he loves riding his big wheel and really anything that has wheels.

The music note was for his love of singing and enjoying music.  The happy face was because he makes so many people smile and laugh.  The star represented the fact that he loves outer space.  And, the heart, well, it was not only because of how much he loves his family, but because of how much love he has brought to our home and to our hearts.

After explaining this, my curly, blonde-haired cutie could not stop grinning from ear to ear.  He grabbed it, ran to his daddy, and said “Daddy!  Look at my flag!”.  I know I am not the best artist and the flag is quite elementary, but it did so much in that moment to lift the spirits of my child and show him the reasons why he is loved so much.  Afterward, we went to his bedroom and hung the flag on his bulletin board.

Two years later, the flag is still there.  It still serves as a reminder to him of the unique factors that make him who he is.  I am not a perfect parent and I certainly fall short many times on having the best words at the right moment with my kids.  But, there are those times when the right opportunities come along to make an impression on my kids that will not be about their “behaviors” but, more importantly, about their beings.

That simplistic paper flag that is tacked to my son’s bulletin board holds a deeper meaning than it appears.  It reminds my son of the time his mommy painted his flag.  But, most importantly, it serves as a visual reminder for me to show through my words and my actions that they are fearfully and wonderfully made.

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14